R. v. Houle, 2018 QCCQ 7122

The accused, Stephane Houle (Houle), was found guilty in two separate informations for voluntarily neglecting or omitting to provide his domestic animals (two dogs and a cat) with food, water, shelter and suitable and sufficient care as well as intentionally causing pain, suffering and unnecessary injury to animals. The judgment can be found here.

The prosecution had requested 6 months’ prison term and 5-10 years of prohibition of living with and/or caring for animals. The defence was seeking a sentence of 18 months, followed by 12 months’ probation and 100 hours of community service with a three-year animal prohibition order.

The accused sought to use as a mitigating factor the media coverage and the difficulties that he had been through since his animals had been seized the previous year, which the Court rejected, finding Houle’s testimony “very unbelievable” and that he “poses as a victim in relation to everything that happens to him” (para. 14-15). The Court also noted that Houle had a history of criminal behaviour: convicted of receiving stolen goods in 1993, simple possession and drug abuse in 1994, assault in 1996, breach of conditions in the same year, and more recently that he had been arrested and detained for a few days in connection with an assault causing bodily harm and was awaiting trial in that case.

In determining an appropriate sentencing range, the Court relied on Habermehl, Ainsworth, Danfousse, Gerling, Barrett and Berube for guidance. As part of the closing remarks, the Court found the following quote from Danfousse, which had been quoted in the 2004 Campbell Brown decision, to be relevant: Protection of animals is part of our criminal law because a person’s treatment of animals, like the treatment of children, the infirm or other vulnerable parties, is viewed as a barometer of that person’s treatment of people. As with all other criminal offences, harming animals amounts to harming everyone (para. 32).

Houle ultimately was sentenced to four months imprisonment on count 2 of the second information – intentionally causing pain and suffering to his animals – and one month on each of the two other counts to be served concurrently with the initial sentence, for a global sentence of four months’ imprisonment. He also was ordered two years’ probation and a 10-year animal prohibition order.

 

R. v. Houle, 2018 QCCQ 3203

Stephane Houle (Houle) was charged in two separate cases for voluntarily neglecting or omitting to provide his domestic animals (two dogs and a cat) with food, water, shelter and suitable and sufficient care as well as intentionally causing pain, suffering and unnecessary injury to animals (the same two dogs and a cat).

Houle stated that he was forced to cut back on feeding his pets, as well as himself, to ensure he provided enough food for his daughter due to a reduction in public funds provided to him for living expenses. After running out of the usual dog food he would purchase from the pet store, Houle stated that he resorted to feeding his pets venison and meat pies that have been donated to him.

The evidence provided has shown that Houle was misrepresenting the facts due to the condition of his pets when they were seized and examined by veterinarians, namely due to the condition of Ozzy, a Cane Corso, who weighed half as much as was within the healthy guidelines of a dog his breed, size, and age: 35lbs versus the 70-80lbs his breed should weigh.

The judge made a point to mention the particularly cruel manner he treated Ozzy, the Cane Corso, due to the especially small cage he was kept in as well as the unsanitary environment he was kept in while also neglecting to feed him. Additionally, they pointed out that “if a person is in such a precarious financial situation that he or she is not unable to take care of her animals, she has to resort to assistance, whether it is animal donation or otherwise, but it is not It is not acceptable to let them starve. It is just as unacceptable failure to provide them, at the very least, with adequate care. including decent shelter and acceptable hygiene. None of that was done in the circumstances” (para. 45).

Due to the evidence provided, the lack of defence apart from to repeat the accused’s financial situation, as well as the condition of the home when the animals were seized, Houle was found guilty of s. 446(1)(b)(2)(b) and 445.1(1)(a)(2)(b) of the Criminal Code.

R v Sedore, 2015 BCPC 477 (sentencing)

These are the reasons for sentencing for Robert Sedore (Sedore), who had pleaded guilty to a count of theft and willfully causing pain, suffering, or injury to a dog. The facts of the case can be found here.

Sedore was given a Conditional sentence for six months followed by six months of probation. The conditional sentence included a curfew for the first three months, an order to not possess or consume any alcohol or controlled substance under s.2 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, as well as to not enter any business premise from which minors are excluded by the terms of the business’ liquor license.

In addition, a two-year prohibition against having an animal under s.447.1 was imposed, as well as a victim of crime surcharge of $200.

A stay of proceedings on the theft count, which involved taking two extension cords from a construction site, was entered.

 

 

R v Sedore 2015 BCPC 478

These are the submissions for sentencing for Robert Sedore (Sedore), who had pleaded guilty to one count each of theft and willfully causing pain, suffering, or injury to a dog. The theft was for taking two extension cords from a construction site and was unrelated to the dog.

Sedore was a homeless man living in his truck with a small-to-medium-size white dog. He was witnessed hitting his dog across the face while going through a McDonald’s drive through. Prior to being hit, the dog was whimpering as well as after being hit; the dog continued to whimper and Sedore placed his hand on the dog’s neck until the whimpering stopped. The police were called and later Sedore was arrested when he returned to the McDonalds the next day. The SPCA seized the dog and issued a notice of disposition. The dog has since been rehomed.

The court took into account Sedore’s criminal history of over 22 property related offences, along with a history of violence with an assault in 1989, weapons offences, and a robbery in 2011 (para. 27). The court also took into account the changes Sedore made to his life, including finding a permanent residence. They considered that Sedore did not complete high school, his shame for his previous sentences, his substance abuse, and his enrollment in a program at Thompson Rivers University. At the time of the offence Sedore was struggling with his housing situation and had had a falling out with his son.

The court referred to R v Connors, where a five-month jail sentence was imposed for a far more severe assault: beating a pit bull puppy. Connors also had unrelated prior offences. Based on that case and the fact that the Crown was not opposed to a conditional sentence given the circumstances, the court determined that Sedore should receive a less harsh penalty.

R v Mathes 2016 BCPC 386

Mathes pled guilty to a charge under s. 445.1(1)(a) of wilfully causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. Mathes struck his dog named Jersey with a four-by-four after Jersey went to attack him. Mathes believed from the strike that Jersey was injured in such a way that he was suffering and would not live. Mathes then struck Jersey a number of occasions to “put the dog out of its misery”.

The Judge considered a number of factors and case law when determining sentencing.

The factors included that Jersey was a Chihuahua weighing less than 10 pounds that had a history of aggressive behaviour. Jersey was on his third foster home and was frequently aggressive with other dogs and towards people on six separate occasions. This included biting both of Mathes children on different occasions, including one that left his daughter with a wound very close to her eye and a fear of dogs. In addition, it was noted that Mathes recognized he “went too far” and what he did wrong. Mathes showed genuine remorse for his actions knowing there were other actions available and he used more force than necessary. It was also recognized from letters by family and friends that Mathes was a devoted dedicated family man that is loving, compassionate, caring, that he would be trusted to look after their pets, and that the actions were out of character. The court recognized Mathes history of caring for animals humanely, no previous criminal history, and cooperation with authorities.

As for case law, the Judge used R v Rabeau, [2010] A.J. No. 567 (A.B.P.C) to outline three different categories of cases and the moral culpability found in each.

  1. A domestic relationship incident in which the offender is exacting revenge on his partner by injuring the pet
  2. Attacking animals in a blind rage often motivated by the pet urinating or defecating and resulting in punishing the pet beyond any “notion of reasonableness and civility”
  3. Offender had a bona fide fear of an animal and “overreacts by killing the animal”.

The case mentioned that in the first two categories, denunciation and deterrence are primary considerations and short periods of incarceration is usually imposed even if there is no prior criminal record. If the case falls under the third category, a probation or conditional discharge may be granted depending on the circumstances of the case. The judge found the decision in Rabeau to be the most helpful given it being the closest in proximity to the circumstances of the case at hand. The Judge mentioned the circumstances in Rabeau were more aggravating than in this case as well. The Judge felt this case fell into the third category of offences meaning a conditional discharge was acceptable.

The judge also considered R v Fallofield (1973), 13 C.C.C. (2d) 450 (B.C.C.A.) in that “a discharge must be in the best interests of the offender and not contrary to the public interest” as well as R v Voong, 2015 BCCA 285 in that exceptional circumstances can be used in the guidance of the sentencing analysis.

The Judge finally noted that allowing the conditional discharge would not be contrary to public interest in denouncing the behaviour, and ended up sentencing Mathes to a non-custodial sentence. The sentence was a conditional discharge of 12 months, and not owning, controlling, or residing with any dog for 1 year. The family had a puppy at the time who was required to live with other family members for the duration of the prohibition.

R v Ranger, 2014 ABCA 50

This is an appeal from the original trial where Ranger was sentenced to 9.5 years imprisonment; he is appealing the sentence given for 21 of the 28 counts against him. His arrest and conviction followed his involvement in a vehicular police chase that got Air One involved. Ranger’s vehicle became lodged and the chase proceeded on foot, which included Police Service Dog Quanto, who was injured when the accused tried to choke Quanto as he was being apprehended. The original trial details are here.

Ranger was appealing his sentence based on a claim that he had learned from his trial counsel the sentencing judge was a former senior Crown prosecutor, the parent of a police officer, and that she had a friendly relationship with the specific Crown counsel who appeared on his case. No submissions or evidence supporting these arguments was provided to indicate that these circumstances required intervention against his convictions (para. 3). Ranger had an extensive criminal record, none relating to animals. The sentences related to broad categories of drug possession, drug trafficking, driving, and property offences.

In the absence of any evidence that contradicts the original trial and sentencing judge’s decisions, the Appeal Judge went on to dismiss all of Ranger’s grounds of appeal and upheld the trial judge sentence.

Neither the appeal or original case mention any charges, convictions, sentences, or prohibitions regarding animals, or bring up any issues relating to Quanto.

R v Leclaire-Logan, 2014 ABPC

In this unreported decision, Paul Leclaire-Logan (Leclaire), an individual suffering from bipolar disorder who was not taking the medication prescribed for him, pleaded guilty to multiple charges committed while under the influence of methamphetamine. One of these charges was for willfully causing unnecessary injury to a police service dog, Ryker.

Leclaire was seen impeding the flow of traffic around an exit ramp of a highway in Edmonton by multiple witnesses. He had no shoes or shirt on, was almost struck multiple times by vehicles, and appeared to be under the influence based on his actions. The complainant who reported Leclaire attempted to help him, only to have Leclaire attempt to steal the complainant’s vehicle. Leclaire was unsuccessful and it was assumed to be due to his intoxicated state.

This led to Leclaire fleeing and the Edmonton Police Service becoming involved in chasing him. Leclaire was told he was under arrest multiple times but continued to flee. Ryker was sent to gain control of Leclaire through grabbing him on the arm. Under surveillance, Leclaire was shown to hit Ryker multiple times. Most of these blows were to the head which lead to Ryker releasing Leclaire. Leclaire attempted to flee and continued to struggle. This led to Leclaire punching Ryker several more times. Ryker finally managed to end the chase by gaining control of Leclaire’s hand which caused some injuries to Leclaire. Leclaire continued to act irregularly in his holding cell, and drug paraphernalia was found on him.

A medical and emotional evaluation of Ryker showed no injuries the following day. However, the judge continued to sentence Leclaire to four months in prison and a one-year ban on owning animals or birds despite the guilty plea. The Judge explained to Leclaire that the court and community has great respect for Police Service Dogs, and that when violence is used against them it is up to the court to send a message that it is to be taken seriously. The Judge explained the sentence had the goal of deterring and denouncing violence against police dogs for others.

Leclaire was sentenced to four months imprisonment for the animal cruelty charge, with a one-year animal prohibition order. He was also sentenced on multiple other offences, unrelated to Ryker or any other animals: seven days for willful damage to property under $5000, two months for attempting to steal a motor vehicle, seven days for possession of a weapon (stick) for dangerous purposes, for a global sentence of six and a half months. A weapons prohibition for five years was also added, along with 14 days for obstructing a police officer to be served concurrently.

Pre-trial custody with enhanced credit led to the offender having completed the sentence at the time of sentencing. The credit also applied to waive the victim fine surcharge of $100 for each sentence where it was converted to a consecutive sentence of 1 day for each, also served through pre-trial custody.

 

R v Hill, [2016] O.J. No. 7351 (sentencing)

This is the sentencing hearing for Michael Hill, who had pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges for taking $60 for a surrendering fee from an acquaintance to take a dog to the SPCA for rehoming but instead pocketed the money, and bound and muzzled the dog, leaving them in a field to die. The dog, Nos, was found and taken for veterinary attention. The decision and sentencing submission hearing is here.

The Judge agreed that the actions of Hill were despicable, mentioning that animals depend on humans to take care of them. They are a group in need of nurturing and care to survive and letting them down in any way (such as missing a meal) is hardship for them. The Judge questioned whether an animal’s life was only worth $60 to Hill, mentioning that Hill could have kept the $60 by simply finding another family to care for the dog.

When considering sentencing, the Judge took into account a sizeable criminal background with unrelated offences, explaining that the maximum sentence was reserved for the “worst offender in the worst circumstances” and it would be the case if Hill committed the offence again. The Judge expressed his disappointment that given that previous cases regarding Hill’s criminal conduct showed some leniency by those involved in his interactions with the legal system. The Judge stated how those people saw worth in Hill and asked him “that is how you repay them?” The Judge stated that the victim’s owner and the criminal justice system believe in rehabilitation.

Considering the circumstances, the Judge sentenced Hill to 2 years imprisonment followed by 3 years’ probation. An order made pursuant to section 447.1(a) also prohibits Hill from owning or having the custody or control or residing in the same premises as an animal for 25 years commencing on the day of sentencing which, at the time, was the maximum sentence allowed under the Criminal Code. Since the offence was indictable, a victim fine surcharge of $200 was also added with 6 months to pay. The Judge also placed a 10-year weapon prohibition on Hill and an order to provide a blood sample for the DNA registry.

R. v. Hill, [2016] O.J. No. 7352

The accused, Michael Hill, was charged with animal cruelty under 445(1)(1)(a) under the Criminal Code for wilfully causing unnecessary suffering to a Patterdale Terrier named Nos by taping his legs together and its mouth shut, leaving him in a field. Hill pleaded guilty to the charges.

Nos was found by a citizen who needed immediate assistance by a veterinarian. A social media campaign helped locate the owner, Adam Esipu. Esipu had asked Hill to bring Nos to the Humane Society to be adopted because their newborn son was allergic. Esipu indicted they asked Hill because they would be too emotional doing it themselves due to their emotional attachment to Nos. Esipu gave $60 to Hill to cover the surrender fee, and Hill even called Esipu to say the dog would be adopted. Investigation showed that Hill’s version of the events were completely false and instead found the truth to be the act he is charged for.

Crown counsel noted the purpose of sentencing Hill was to denounce the act and send a message to others. The counsel stated there is really “no other way to describe this act as a despicable act of depravity” and requested the sentence to reflect that. Hill’s counsel noted Hill’s criminal history, his age of 32 years, marriage with a three-year-old son, and him being raised by his mother and stepfather. The Crown put forward a joint submission of an indictable offence of two years in jail followed by three years’ probation and an order under section 447.1(a) to prohibit Hill from owning animals for 25 years.

Both Nos’ owner Adam Esipu and his wife Jessica Hems submitted victim impact statements. Both reflected shock and devastation. They mentioned trauma to the family, stress attempting to shield their children from the act, and the betrayal felt after trusting Hill and trying to give him a chance. They could not believe the cruel action and mentioned a loss of sleep and appetite as a result of Hill’s actions.

 

 

R v Raugust, [2023] A.J. No. 1196

Diagnosed as a psychopathic serial cat killer, 26-year-old Aleeta Raugust admitted to purchasing cats through Kijiji just to kill them between 2018 and 2023. The first incident occurred between January 1st of 2018 and December 31st of 2018 when she had broken up with her boyfriend; Raugust strangled a cat (that survived) and then abandoned the animal in the park. The actual killings did not begin until October 2022; prior to that, Raugust would maim and torture the cats (para. 465). She made recordings the killings and watched them repeatedly because of the pleasure it gave her, as did leaving the bodies of the cats in places such as a neighbour’s picnic table and in a cat food bag on another neighbour’s porch so she could observe the reactions of those who found them. She told police during initial questioning in January 2023 that “I have a problem with hurting animals, and you need to do something about it” (para.853). Raugust pleaded guilty to nine animal cruelty charges for the torture of nine cats and killing of seven.

In addition to the animal cruelty charges, Raugust also pleaded guilty to a charge of threatening to damage property for telling police (after being admitted to hospital) that she planned to burn down her apartment building once she was released. She also admitted to fantasizing about hurting people when she would get angry.

Sentencing was initially delayed due to the call for further mental health testing and a risk assessment in August, where she was deemed a “psychopath and sociopath with bleak hope for rehabilitation” with a strong threat to reoffend. Her own mother submitted a victim impact statement on behalf of the Crown asking the court to detain her daughter, saying “I fear that if she is released she will commit more horrific crimes” (para. 55).  Among many other factors, the judge also accepted as aggravating that one cat was pregnant and killed within days after she was arrested and charged for other instances of animal cruelty (para. 277) as well as the acceptance of Lockwood’s Checklist for Factors in the Assessment of Dangerousness and Perpetrators of Animal Cruelty. Consecutive sentences were deemed appropriate.

She was sentenced to 78 months or six and a half years imprisonment, more than double the previous sentencing threshold of three years in R v Geick, and a lifetime animal prohibition order. The judge initially calculated a total of 12 years and one month based on the jail time given for each count, but after taking into account the totality and that Raugust is a youthful offender, the sentence was reduced to 78 months.